It has been stated that Storytelling and religious beliefs are two closely linked ideas which is particularly relevant in the novels Life of Pi and Jane Eyre. A key notion in both novels is the exposure of people manipulating others into believing their ideologies whilst hiding behind controlled religion. The control of people’s beliefs to match the ideals of those in power loses the real meaning and the faith is corrupted. Both novels use the protagonists to refute the control forced upon them. This is arguably alluded to in Jane Eyre through the characters of Brocklehurst and Helen. Both Brocklehurst and Helen try to convince Jane to believe their ideologies- for Brocklehurst, this is the idea that abuse is acceptable as long as it is is the name of religion, whilst Helen believes in more personal faith. Jane Eyre was written by Charlotte Bronte, who in 1824 with three of her sisters: Maria, Elizabeth, and Emily, were sent to Cowan Bridge, a school for clergymens daughters. Due to an epidemic of tuberculosis, Maria and Elizabeth were sadly killed and Charlotte and Emily were taken home. Cowan Bridge is said to be where Bronte drew her inspiration for Lowood and the overpowering ideals of how people wanted her to be. Similarly in Life of Pi, the theme of enforced religious ideals is obviously shown through the characters of Mr Kumar and the Gurus. Mr Kumar wants Pi to believe in rational thought and tries to make Pi believe in science and discard religion whilst the Gurus want Pi to believe in just one religion, therefore restricting his beliefs. Life of Pi was written by Yann Martel who was born in Salamanca Spain on the 25th of June in 1963 in, to Canadian parents. When Martel wasa child, his parents worked for the Canadian Foreign Services, and the family moved often, living in Alaska, France, Costa Rica, Ontario, and British Columbia. Martel studied philosophy at Trent University in Ontario, where he began writing. Perhaps the multiple cultures that Martel experienced, inspired Pis discovery of diverse religions in the novel. Both pieces of literature were potentially written to show how religion is used as a mask for those in power to use to restrict people’s belief and destroy the true meaning behind it.
Perhaps the most prominent similarity between the two novels the way minor characters attempt to manipulate the beliefs of the protagonists whilst hiding behind religious beliefs.
The minor characters in Jane Eyre are the characters that she encounters at Lowood which are Mr Brocklehurst and Helen Burns. Both intend to get Jane to act in the way that they see fit, however this in actual fact restricts Jane and forces her to resist in order to stay true to herself. This arguably similar to Life of Pi as both protagonists have to fight to form their own opinion regarding religious beliefs.
The Critic once stated that Brocklehurst is so good a Christian precept, so bad a one in practice. This is most obviously shown in a scene at Lowood when Brocklehurst characterised to embody cruelty and control. Elizabeth Rigley once used the phrase un-Christian composition” which is relevant to Brocklehurst as despite all his religious lessons, it is all a fa?ade as the real motive is the ability to control and manipulate children. Mr. Brocklehurst is the supervisor of a boarding school for orphaned girls, Lowood Institute, which was founded by one of his relatives. He is portrayed as enjoying intimidating little girls by keeping them half-starved and cold, and telling them that theyre going to hell for their sins. Brocklehurst has been characterised by Bronte as a Black Pillar which alludes to the darkness of religion that he is crafted to represent. The gothic use of setting is used to portray Brocklehurst as terrifying and unpleasant. During his first meeting of Jane, Brocklehurst say that the fact Jane does not like Psalms “proves you have a wicked heart; and you must pray to God to change it: to give you a new and clean one: to take away your
heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” This presents Brocklehurst as a religious tyrant that the audience is persuaded to dislike. By manipulating religious texts in order to fit his own purposes, the true meaning is lost and religion in this sense is a power tactic. The fiery pits that he described are a method of control as if manipulates his students to do what he says in fear of the consequence of not conforming to his ideals instead of teaching the love of religion. The motif of manipulation is arguably shown when Brocklehurst states, I have a Master to serve whose kingdom is not of this world: my mission is to mortify in these girls the lusts of the flesh; to teach them to clothe themselves with shame-facedness and sobriety, not with braided hair and costly apparel; and each of the young persons before us has a string of hair twisted in plaits which vanity itself might have woven: these, I repeat, must be cut of. The humiliation that Brocklehurst enforces on the young girls who attend the school is supposedly in the name of religion however is seen more as a way to control the girls and take away any inderviduality that the girls had left.This portrays Brocklehurst as a hypocrite as just as hes lecturing Miss Temple on why all the girls at Lowood must have very plain clothing and hair, his wife and daughters come into Lowood wearing the latest fashions with curled hair. This suggests that keeping the Lowood girls plain-looking is more about keeping them in their lowly place than about real Christian humility.These ideologies could be due to Brocklehurst being an evangelical christian. It has been said that Religion played a very important role in Victorian England which is evident in Brocklehursts evangelical faith. Evangelicalism was based on the importance of the “inner life,” which insisted on depravity of humanity and on the importance of the individual’s personal relationship with God. They put particular emphasis on faith, denying that either good works or the sacraments possessed any salvational efficacy. This meant that all of the bible would be taken literally and being good is not as important as being devoted to God.
Helen Burns ,on the other hand, wants Jane to conform to the ideals that Brocklehurst enforces in order to stay good and moral, sacrificing opinion and individuality in the process. The idea of personal faith was becoming more common in the Victorian era as societal norms when it came to religion became conflicted. Faith in the victorian era has been described by P.A. Steward as an age of conflicting explanations and theories, of scientific and economic confidence and of social and spiritual pessimism of a sharpened awareness of the inevitability of progress and of deep disquiet as to the nature of the present. For thousands of years, the bible had dictated what was right and how things had happened, but Darwin changed all this with his theory of evolution, which shocked the Victorian people. This however, gave people more of reason to find their own faith instead of blindly believing the bible with little to no explanation. This is what the character of Helen Burns is crafted to explore in the novel. She is used to represent both personal faith and he New Testament ideologies of “turn the other cheek” and “bless them that curse you” and “love your enemies.” Helen is constantly victimized by the teacher Miss Scatcherd, but she never seems to believe that she treated unfairly and even tries to see things from Miss Scatcherds perspective. Jane is confused by Helens patient, loving response to mistreatment. This is particularly shown when Helen is singled out as an object for Miss Scatcherds cruelty and beatings, however she embraces the cruelty with dignity. This quality makes her seem almost weak, but she is also a foil to Jane, whose viewpoint is at the other end of the spectrum from Helens views. Jane states that if she were in (Helens) place (Jane) should dislike (Miss Scatcherd) If she struck me with that rod, I should get it from her hand; I should break it under her nose. Perhaps Bronte was trying to portray Helen as religious figure in order to show what she believed religion should be. The character of Helen Burns is used as a foil against Brocklehursts character and is used to scrutinise and expose religion as she represents what religion should be in contrast to the controlling organisation that Brocklehurst had created.G. H. Lewes once said that Helen Burns is “lovely and lovable” which indicates that she is angel like or Janes guardian angel to guide her away from Brocklehursts manipulation. While Mr. Brocklehurst embodies an evangelical form of religion that seeks to strip others of their excessive pride or of their ability to take pleasure in worldly things, Helen represents a mode of Christianity that stresses tolerance and acceptance. Brocklehurst uses religion to gain power and to control others; Helen ascetically trusts her own faith and turns the other cheek to Lowoods harsh policies. Although Helen manifests a certain strength and intellectual maturity, her efforts involve self-negation rather than self-assertion. Helen uses the advice upon her years by saying, “If all the world hated you, and believed you wicked, while your own conscience approved you, and absolved you from guilt, you would not be without friends.” Helen is trying to get Jane to understand that she must do what is right compared to what is expected from her in the society that they live in.
Overall, the two minor characters have a important influence on Jane and allow her to develop her own beliefs, whilst gaining an understanding of the world around her. However, the two contrasting ideologies do not completely convince Jane to follow them as she is left seeking for religious closure for the majority if the novel. Arguably, Janes religious opinion is only formed when she meets the Rivers in the finale chapters, making both Helen and Brocklehursts ideologies influential but not defining.
The minor characters that we see in life of Pi are Mr Kumar and the religious Gurus. They both try to convince Pi to leave his own person beliefs in return for their own ideas. Like Jane, Pi has to resist this.
Haochen Sun once stated that, the book explores complex challenges posed by culture, politics, and technology associated with trade in information services. This is most evident when we meet the character of Mr Kumar. When on the topic of Atheism, Charles Bukowski stated For those who believe in God, most of the big questions are answered. But for those of us who can’t readily accept the God formula, the big answers don’t remain stone-written. We adjust to new conditions and discoveries. Atheism became more widespread during the 20th century in which the book is set, which is due to: world wars making people question their faith, scientific discoveries such as the big bang theory made people doubt scriptures such as genesis which lead to reduced faith in religious books and the rise of communism in Russia, China and other countries completely banned faith all together. Mr Kumar represents the atheism that comes from science, Martel even goes as far as to create the character as a biology teacher believing in evolution and teaching it in his own classes.Mr Kumar is one of the few atheists that Pi meets and he is unable to comprehend the idea of no religion. Mr Kumar tells Pi about his past struggles with religion, “Religion?” Mr. Kumar grinned broadly. “I don’t believe in religion. Religion is darkness.” This is shocking to Pi as he struggles to understand how anyone can live without a faith. We learn that it is Mr Kumars own experiences that give him this mind set as we learn that Mr Kumar is in fact a Polio survivors who claims that it was not God how saved him but science and medicine. Mr Kumar tells Pi that he asked Where is God? Where is God? Where is God? It wasn’t God who saved me- it was medicine. Here Mr Kumar is trying to convince Pi to put his faith in science instead of religion as he believes that science has more value and proof. Mr Kumar is a self proclaimed atheist. In the broadest sense, atheism is where people are absent in the belief that Gods or deities exist, it is a rejection of religion and any kind or organised religion. James wood described the novel as a novel about the capacity to believe which Mr Kumar is portrayed as being on the side of belief that comes from scientific discoveries instead of religious experience. This is further amplified when Mr Kumar tells Pi that Reason is my prophet which further indicates that science has to be believed in just as much as religion. The lessons that Pi receives from Mr Kumar have a detrimental effect on him as he questions not only his own beliefs but also makes him question the importance of science and human nature. The intentions that Mr Kumar has is to guide Pi into what he believes is the correct mindset and that believing in multiple religions is foolish as he believes that there is no God to listen to his prayers, let alone act upon them. Despite these intentions, Mr Kumar telling Pi what to believe, can be seen as controlling and to an extent manipulative as he gets Pi to think as he wants him to think to an extent, as Pi,s own thoughts are permanently altered. On the other hand, Pi is shown to embrace Mr Kumars thought process even going as far as to declare him as his favourite teacher and going on to study zoology which is influenced by his teaching of biology. This portrays Mr Kumar as having a positive effect on Pis religious journey even though he represents the ideals against religious beliefs.
It has been said that Despite all his familys ideas of modern secularism, Pi is drawn to religion, which comes in the form of guidance from the Gurus. The religious Gurus of Polichary however, are more restricting when it comes to Pis personal faith. Each Guru gives Pi a valuable lesson regarding his faith, however they are against the idea of Pi following all three religions. George Carlin once said that Religion is like a pair of shoes…..Find one that fits for you, but don’t make me wear your shoes which is most relevant to the Gurus when the attempt to limit Pis beliefs to just one religion.The novel is set primarily in the early seventies si it is presumed that Pi childhood was within the 1960s which was a time of extreme religious change. For Christianity, it was a period of reconstructing faith in ways such as new theology and new morality of Bishop Robinson, to the evangelicalism of the Charismatic Movement, and of leaders, such as Pope John XXIII and Martin Luther King. Additionally, the period was also a time of extreme social and cultural change when religions faced challenges from other religions, as well as from Marxism and feminism, and most importantly from new affluent lifestyles. The Gurus all give Pi a valuable lesson that he depends on later in the novel, for example Francis Adirumbasamy who is referred to as Mamaji is the main Guru and the person who tells the author who records the novel about Pi. Mamaji is described as a spry, bright-eyed elderly man. He most likely gives Pi his most valuable lesson and survival tool as he is the one who teaches Pi how to swim which is a practical gift considering Pi being stranded in the ocean. This could be a crafted by Martel as metaphor for the gift of faith, as it allows Pi to maintain hope on the open sea. Teachings of faith is further shown through the character of Kumar the Muslim who teaches Pi to pray. and goes further than just recitation of prayers, but connecting his whole body into it, until Pi has a connection with God. After Pi leaves Kumar, he says, I suddenly felt I was in heaven…. Whereas before the road, the sea, the trees, the air, the sun all spoke differently to me, now they spoke one language of unity…. I felt like the centre of a small circle coinciding with the centre of a much larger one. Atman met Allah. The religious imagery indicates that through Kumars teachings, he has found a connection to God which he believes is a precious gift to be treasured. Arguably however, the most crucial lesson that Pi learns from the Gurus if from Father Martin who teacher Pi about suffering. Father Martin tells Pi about Jesus, due of his love for mankind, had to suffer and die just like a average human. He explains to Pi how love motivates Christ.This is an idea that Pi struggles to understand even going as far as to question Father Martin- This son, on the other hand, who goes hungry, who suffers from thirst, who gets tired, who is sad, who is anxious, who is heckled and harassed, who has to put up with followers who don’t get it and opponents who don’t respect Him what kind of god is that? It’s a god on too human a scale, that’s what. The tragic part of Pis confusion is that it only makes sense to him when he suffers himself later on in the novel and he has to rely on his past teachings to guide him on further.
Each of these characters contribute practices, ideas, and faiths to Pi. They are their faiths, personal beliefs and their life lessons and they are used as vehicles for viewpoints for characters with deep psychologies. Pi has to find the parts of each religion that suits him and allows him to craft his own faith that is personal to him instead of organised religion that is decided for him.